Delhi’s peace DNA

It was awaited for a long time and finally it came. It is the blueprint of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that an empowered committee of the MHA has evolved about how to tackle the civil unrest, if it erupts in Kashmir for the fourth consecutive summer.

The committee was headed by state police chief Kuldeep Khoda. ADGP Andhra Pradesh, Additional DGP Uttar Pradesh, IG CRPF, IG Rapid Action Force (RAF) and senior officers of police from various other security agencies across the country and internal security experts were part of the committee. After the report was submitted, MHA approved it and the SOP was issued to all levels of the police and paramilitary forces. The SOP, as leaked to Jammu newspapers by its authors, suggests it intends to attain twin objectives of ensuring law and order while using least force. The doctrine has defined various forms of crowd management.

The policy envisages prescription for different situations including peaceful protests, violent protests, dispersal of crowd in narrow lanes and by-lanes, mob indulging in arson including burning of the government property, attack on motorcades of protected persons and dealing with women crowd and children.
It suggested use of different kind of equipments for unruly crowd, introducing the concept of graded use of force, appointing officers of police and paramilitary as in-charge of situation dealing with protests, drill and discipline in crowd control measures.

The SOP has defined the role of magistrates and now on they would be present everywhere regardless of the size of the crowd or the intensity of the protest. The roles of the officers who would be in control of situations in particular areas have also been defined. It has called for using dye color grenades, triple grenades, teargas with irritants and color water canons.

All this material has already been kept at the disposal of district and sub-divisional police officers and will now be sent to respective police stations. Going through the SOP leaks, it is listed nowhere that if civilians are killed the action needs to be initiated against the accused. SOP makes it feel that the roles and responsibilities of the people involved in Kashmir were never defined before! So let us start anew.

Interestingly, the SOP came on a day when the police and CRPF was seen jointly marching on the streets of Srinagar. Super-policemen denied it was a flag march but the exercise seemed just short of provocation.

A judicial scrutiny
A few years back, a delegation of Naxal hit policemen came flying to Srinagar to understand the system of special police officials (SPO) – the J&K police’s ‘human shield’. Within a few months, the concept was copied and a huge infrastructure was created in Naxal hit states especially Chhattisgarh. Now it is facing uncomfortable questions from the Supreme Court that has taken cognizance of giving youth guns and a package to fight.

“How can they create SPOs (special police officers)? How can you arm them and let loose on the people. How can you permit such a force in the country? You rely on 1861 law (Police Act) which was made during British time when they were rulers. We have serious doubts about constitutional validity of such appointment,” the bench comprising justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar observed. They observed that giving Rs 3000 a month to the poor people is very easy but the move is aimed at dividing the people of a region.

“It is deeply disturbing. We have serious doubts about such appointment. It’s dangerous that you just recruit them just because they can fire. It is dividing people one against the others. We want to know what is the procedure, tenure of the appointment in such force,” the bench asked. “We are of the considered opinion that this (SPOs) can’t go.”

This has not happened for the first time. In February 2009, the court had questioned on how the government could arm common people or those associated with Salwa Judum, a people’s movement to combat Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

Interesting aspect is that the system is up and kicking in J&K which has nearly 28000 working SPOs even after 475 were mowed down by militants so far. Till Azad government, SPOs were not getting anything beyond the monthly honorarium. Though they still lack the right to be on leave, get adjusted in the police and avail many benefits that the formal policemen get but the system is paying them a few more bucks and does provide the compensation to their families after they are dead. By March 2011, the government has settled 265 cases of compensation by disbursing Rs 51950000 as 262 other cases are under process. But J&K is not Chattisgarh!

Smugglers In Uniform
Like alien films these characters always existed. Last week, policemen rounded up two policemen and a Territorial Army (TA) soldier for selling weapons to the insurgents. This gang operated in Poonch’s Mendhar belt. From them, the policemen recovered two pistols and the sleuths see a link between the pistols that were seized during searches of Bhati Dhar forests and those recovered from the trio. Cops are after the fourth accused who is still at large.

The gang comprised Mahroof Ahmed (Bera) – a follower in police, Parvez Ahmed, an SPO and Liaquat Hussain, a recruit of 156 Territorial Army. They were caught in the local bus stand while waiting for somebody to handover the two pistols. After registering an FIR, police are investigating the case. Though there are many claims it might take some more time to understand the motivation and the modus operandi of the gang.

Police did actually detain Mehmood, who was supposed to take the consignment and also arrested a female SPO Safeda Bi. The lady SPO was deployed at a forward fencing picket, where she was supposed to frisk the ingoing and outgoing women. It was at this point that she was reported to have helped some women carry the consignments of arms to Bhati Dhar forests of Mendhar from across the LoC, according to police. Police says the weapons were being buried in the forests wherefrom they would be collected by policemen and soldiers for delivery to insurgents.

Quite flows the Jhelum
For almost a year now, J&K government is noisy over its water laws. Initially it inflated its possible income and later it went whole hog saying the laws are implemented and all the power producers have registered afresh. Kashmir Life has challenged both the claims throughout and always felt vindicated.

The latest revelation is that National Hydroelectric Project Corporation (NHPC) has not registered any of its projects under the J&K State Water Resources Management Act despite the fact that only three weeks time-frame has been left for the same. The new law wants all the power producers to get the projects registered with the competent authorities within a period of six months and pay charges for the water being used in generation of electricity.

Instead of registering its projects, NHPC has approached Power Ministry seeking its intervention. The corporation has not paid the water usage charges of Rs 37 crore for the period from November 13, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

NHPC wants Power Ministry’s intervention in persuading J&K government to do away with new registrations, reduce the charges and instead make the generated power a unit for any tax. The prevailing system hits NHPCs economic viability in the state. Besides it has petitioned the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission seeking to increase the tariff of power generation before paying water usage charges to J&K government.

Taj Mohiddin is unfazed. Apart from serving NHPC another Rs 80 crores bill, he is keen to stop water to NHPC once the deadline under law expires. So look forward to darker days in May!

The business expands
Getting money through alternative, non-banking and illegal channels has remained part of state’s discourse for a long time. Recently the police arrested Barkat Ali Dar, the uncle of a Congress lawmaker Vikar Rasool for allegedly channelling hawala money for “promoting militancy”. He is librarian in Banihar junior college. Police recovered Rs 199 thousands from Dar whose brother in law lives in Pakistan. Vikar represents Banihal in state legislature and is Congress’s youth general secretary in-charge of Bihar. He sees it a “conspiracy”.

But this is not the first such case. In April, police laid its hands on a Delhi-based property dealer Hira Lal who has claimed to have funded the election campaigs of two independent MLAs who later became ministers in Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s 2002 government. His questioning led to the arrest of Hajira Banoo of Lolab in Kupwara.

Lal has told his interrogators that he received five crore rupees from Pakistan and later passed it over to the Srinagar-based businessman who, according to him, delivered the money to a separatist in Srinagar. He has identified the properties acquired by the family with the money they got.

In another case, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken over investigations of a hawala case that has Syed Ali Geelani as an accused. The case pertains to the arrest of Ghulam Muhammad Bhat under Unlawful Activities (Preventive) Act in January jointly by Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir Police and allegedly recovered Rs 21 lakh from him which was supposedly meant for distribution to separatist leaders in the state. Bhat, interestingly, is facing five such cases.

For saving girls
The 2011 census has thrown up a trend that suggests the male chauvinistic society of J&K is killing the female well before they are born. Though in case of adults a skewed sex ratio is not a matter of concern because the enumerators have counted the security men operating in the state as well. But it is a matter of grave concern when it comes to the child population.

In immediate response to the trend, the government has started acting. They have started sealing the private clinics and diagnostic centres which lack authority to function. Four unauthorized ultrasound clinics were sealed in Baramulla alone. They were operating at Kreeri, Hyderbeigh, Pattan and Sopore. Earlier the health services also sealed the Rattan Rani hospital in Srinagar that was operating from a rented premises apparently without an authority. The government said they had got a number of complaints against the ‘hospital’.

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